LafargeHolcim and CDC Group plc – the UK’s development finance institution – have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to set up a company to produce and promote an affordable low-carbon construction solution for developing countries.

The new company aims at scaling-up production of earth-cement bricks, a simple, reliable, affordable and environmentally-friendly building material that was launched by LafargeHolcim in Malawi in 2013.

Durabric, designed by the group's R&D center, is produced from a mixture of earth and cement compressed in a mold, and left naturally to cure in the sun without firing. Durabric contributes to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the deforestation associated with wood fuel consumption. The bricks are also more resistant than fired bricks and reduce construction costs.

“Durabric offers many benefits compared to the traditional bricks used for construction in the developing world: it is easy to manufacture, has a smaller environmental footprint, offers more resistance, and all at a lower cost,” explains Gérard Kuperfarb, member of LafargeHolcim’s executive committee in charge of growth and innovation. “Through the new company we are setting up with CDC, we will accelerate the development of this affordable, low-carbon solution in developing markets where traditional bricks are commonly used.”

More than three million of these bricks have already been produced in Malawi, and have been used in around 500 buildings. A brick production plant is being built to increase availability of Durabric in Malawi.

The aim of the new company, which will be managed by LafargeHolcim, will be to extend the offer developed in Malawi – including the provision of equipment to make the bricks, on-site technical support and training for brick makers – into other developing countries that are affected by deforestation resulting from the use of wood-fired bricks.

CDC, which is wholly owned by the UK’s Department for International Development will invest alongside LafargeHolcim and contribute its expertise in investing in projects with a strong social and environmental dimension.

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